Malaysian National Laureate, Zurinah Hassan, talk about her book,A JOURNEY THROUGH PROSE AND POETRY, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia and Islamic International University Malaysia. 2018.This book is an account of my personal involvement in writing, an insight into the sociological and cultural background that influence literary production of women writers in Malaysia.

It begins with a brief introduction to the early development of modern Malaysian literature and the emergence of important women writers in the Malay literary scene. The long and winding road taken manifested the hardship that a woman in Malaysia has to overcome in pursuing her aspiration of becoming a writer. I talk of the earlier stages, before the mid seventies, when writings by women did not receive attention and review as they were usually considered of lesser quality than works produced by male writers. I also made observations of fellow women writers, who did not survive and disappear particularly after marriage.

I was born in a rural area in the north of Malaysia and brought up by customs and norms typical of the place and time. I was kept indoors by overprotective guardians. My introduction to literature was through traditional Malay poetry, mainly pantun and syair that I heard over the radio. I came to love reading and writing when the elders were not happy to see their young girls spending so much time with books. I wrote poems in my secondary school and university days. My first poetry book Sesayup Jalan was published by USM Press in 1974. initiated by the First Vice Chancellor, the late Tan Sri Hamzah Sendut.

In this book, I talk about issues and creative processes of some selected work My favourite is the issue of women in patriarchal society, particularly in Malay society, where they were supposed to devote themselves almost exclusively to the domestic sphere and avoid opposing the men who were regarded as their ‘guardians’. This situation influenced the ways in which men and women could participate in public life including literature as writers, readers or critics.

Besides poetry I also write short stories and a novel that evolved around my personal experience particularly the obstacles in pursuing my ambition of becoming a good writer, mostly the customary and domestic obligations, the burdens of child bearing and rearing that suppressed artistic talents.

Besides women issues there is also concern about society and worry about the future of my race. I wrote about the weakening of agricultural sector that threatened food production and subsequently human survival. There are short stories and poems on poverty and suffering of farmers and fishermen in the country. Another prime concern is the rising cost of living particularly the price of houses as more and more of my people cannot afford to own a house. The people are divided by Politics and corrupted leaders.

Poverty is always a major problem in all ages. Some of my short stories show how poverty breed crime There are short stories in which I blamed leaders and administrators who neglected their role.

I am also concerned about the future of younger generation as they are. being lulled by the less worthwhile entertainments. Most frightening is their madness to race on the road, getting killed or permanently disabled.

The subject matters in my poems and short stories are also common in the literary works of other contemporary Malaysian writers. The samples of short stories and poems in translation included in the book would give some insight into Malay literature especially to the foreign students.


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